Rock Bottom for Ricardo?

By: José Manuel Simián

Ricardo Arjona is an easy target, you might say.

He is one of the most successful Latin American troubadours, capable of filling arenas all over the US, and has a long history of being ridiculed for his lyrics. You know, because he has written things like an ode to menstruation where women turn into “painters” once a month, or because of his favoring of heavy-handed metaphors like describing the demise of a relationship through “penguins in bed.”

We should leave him and his adoring fans alone, you might say. Let them enjoy each other in peace, and use our energy in more meaningful ways. Yet Arjona is hard to avoid. Every time he puts an album out, the songs are all over radio and television—and the controversy over the artistic merit of his lyrics is lit again. In a way, Latino pop culture goes through a new Arjona love/hate cycle every few years.

The new edition of that cycle will officially begin by the end of April, when Arjona releases Viaje, his 14th studio album. And this cycle may be one for the ages, because the LP’s first single, “Apnea,” may be one of his worst yet.

Yes, like the title implies, Arjona compares the feeling of having lost a woman to sleep apnea, but only after singing arjonismos like “You hurt more than the worst pain ever invented” or “Today what’s already over begins.”

Get it? He can’t breathe = apnea. What can hurt more than the worst pain ever invented? Nothing. Duh.

Arjona is not the first songwriter to use sickness or physical ailments to illustrate the effects of love (see “Fever” and “La Bilirrubina,” just to name a few good examples), but he may be the first one to do it in such a literal and unimaginative way.

Somewhere in our hearts, we kept hoping that someday Arjona would stop churning out songs with what seems to be a cliché roulette installed next to his bed. Then we’d really leave him alone. But to use another line from “Apnea,” “hope just threw itself out of the window.”

José Manuel Simián is the Executive Editor of Manero. He used to be a lawyer and is probably listening to Bob Dylan as you read this.